The Great Resignation is real, hitting virtually every industry and breaking the labor records month after month. The number of individuals quitting their jobs is quite alarming. According to the 2021 report in the standard, 40% of workers in Kenya consider quitting their jobs.
Research shows that the underlying cause of burnout is not individual, it is systemic, living in the culture and the workplace. We tend to think of burnout as a personal problem, solvable by “learning to say no,” more yoga, better breathing techniques – the list goes on.
But a closer look at workplace burnout reveals that applying personal, band-aid solutions to an epic and rapidly evolving workplace problem may be doing you more harm than helping. With burnout now being considered a significant problem by the World Health Organization (WHO), the responsibility is now shifting from individual to organization.
Leaders, pin it down: It’s now your sole responsibility to kick out workplace burnout. Reducing burnout in the workplace and further knowing how to prevent employee burnout is crucial for retention and overall employee well-being.
What is Workplace Burnout
The World Health Organization defines Workplace Burnout as a syndrome that leads to prolonged exposure to emotional, physical, and interpersonal stressors characterized by a chronic feeling of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.
Something to note. Workplace Burnout consists of 1) Exhaustion – I’m so tired, 2) Cynicism – I’m so fed up, I don’t care, and 3) Shame – I’m not making a difference. Burnout happens when employees repeatedly become stressed for long periods without relief, leading to being stuck and overwhelmed, unable to perform job duties, and feeling shame for needing help.
Maybe you think employee burnout only happens in a rare and spectacularly bad workplace, but you’d be wrong. Workplace burnout happens everywhere, regardless of how profitable your firm may look. No wonder the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Maalim Mohammed has called on heads of departments and state agencies to create an environment that encourages employees to share their challenges and personal problems.
Recognizing workplace burnout is not an easy thing. Employees often refrain from speaking about it. Why? Perhaps it is because of the thriving culture of overworking. We have been brought up to think that long working hours and constant exhaustion are markers of success.
If you live and breathe work (and toss in some moral flexibility), the message is, the rewards will be exciting – and immense. But this is not the case. It is time for every manager and employee to be vigilant about workplace burnout. Here are a few signs of workplace burnout.
How to Know if You Are Experiencing Burnout
Unaddressed burnout can contribute to long-term depression and other harmful outcomes. When a worker resists taking a break or resting when necessary, symptoms of burnout can manifest physically and mentally and lead to more intense consequences.
So, let’s try to make things as black and white as possible by looking at a few of the most prevalent symptoms of burnout.
1. You No Longer Have Interest in Work
Count how many times each week you’re asking yourself, “Why am I in this job?” If you’re constantly engaged in work and no longer feel such enthusiasm, pay close attention. That emotional distance from your work may be a sign of burnout.
This attitude of indifference can extend beyond your work and negatively impact your interest in various aspects of your life outside of the office. If you feel isolated in your daily work, you are somehow experiencing workplace burnout, and you need to be careful that you don’t fall into the pit of stress or depression.
2. You’ve Stopped Putting Effort at Work
The lack of excitement or interest often leads to a negative and apathetic attitude. Sometimes you wake up and say to yourself, “Okay, I’m going to go to work, and I’m going to complete my work straight away.” But that is not the case. Once you get to your desk, you barely do any work.
The people who struggle with burnout often have reputations as high achievers, so these signs of burnout on the job are typically a stark contrast when compared with their typical approach to their work. If you realize you no longer put in an effort at work, there is a likelihood that you are experiencing burnout.
3. Your Performance is Declining
As you might expect, disinterest at work often translates to poor performance because burnout people usually do not care about their performance. A decline in performance is one of the biggest warning signs.
When your supervisors or managers keep on pointing out errors and mistakes in your performance, you might be experiencing more significant issues on your hands. If you get to a place where you feel there is nothing you can do to make your job better and that it’s never going to change, that’s a big warning sign.
4. You’re Totally Exhausted
Fatigue is a normal aspect of work, but being over-exhausted is another thing. An overall feeling of exhaustion is commonly-cited as an indicator of burnout. You’ll not only deal with a lack of energy physically, but you can also feel emotionally depleted and drained.
So, if getting yourself out of bed and to the office each day is a more demanding challenge than normal, you could be tiptoeing into burnout territory.
You’re Burn Out… What Now?
Okay, so you recognize you have one or all the signs of burnout. What next? What can you do to stop this train from speeding down the tracks? Many will tell you to take some time off. That’s what the manager often prefers.
A break can give you a bit of breathing room, but you may probably not treat the diseases. All you are dealing with are the symptoms. If you take a day or even a week off, you’re still coming back. You will still be the same person, and the job will be the same.
Here are a few steps to take in case of burnout.
1. Change Your Attitude
Amidst all the remedies for workplace burnout, the problem often narrows down to your attitude at the workplace. To change your attitude, all you need is to recognize the negative habits and thoughts and work on them.
Research suggests that perfectionism is closely linked with burnout. So, recognizing that you are prone to errors may make you realize self-imposed pressure and help you breathe a little easier at work.
2. Decrease Your Workload
Burnout can happen when you have too much on your plate, and in those cases, you need to lighten your load.
Approach your boss and have a conversation about how you feel overworked and identify ways of managing your workload.
3. Build Social Connections in the workplace
People are wired to be social. And the more we connect with our colleagues, the better we become. Social support positively relates to our ability to curb stress, health, and well-being. If you are a manager, challenge your employees to create a plan to connect with others.
For instance, you can adopt weekly team lunches or team-building activities. Such forums will refresh and rejuvenate you and help prevent work burnout. This will lift their mood and help them feel connected
4. Keep Tabs on Workplace Culture
Some of your signs of burnout have to do with poor workplace culture. As an employee or manager, you should always consider the workplace culture. Reduce the time pressure and pace whenever passion as this will reduce stress.
Check the workload of each employee and the expectations for the role. Maybe you need to hire more staff instead of bragging about your employees’ long hours.
To sum it up, your culture is a failure if people are not sure what they should be doing, how much they should be doing, and if they can take a needed break without derailing everyone. Remember, employee burnout comes in various forms.
It happens when employees are weary, stressed, depressed, upset, fearful, or lack a sense of belonging. In other words, employee burnout has no cookie-cutter fix. But fix it if you want to reduce its impacts.